Earth & Environment

The "third rock from the Sun"—Earth. With an orbit neither too close nor too far from the Sun, it occupies a unique position in the Solar System. It's the only planet known to man with the right conditions for the origin and evolution of life. During Earth's 4.5 billion-year history, a combination of processes has transformed it into a watery blue, living planet. The Earth's ecosystems involve complex interactions between the biological (living) and physical (non-living) worlds. Scientific research helps us comprehend our effects on the environment and how the environment in turn responds to impacts of our activities.

What will food production look like in the future?

Adam Wolf, founder and CEO of Arable Labs, describes the future of food production. Arable Labs, a National Science Foundation-funded small business, has developed a crop and weather sensor that delivers real-time, precision weather information straight to the hands of farmers in the field

Climate change might have made Harvey rainfall 15 percent more intense

Scientists from World Weather Attribution, including researchers from Rice University and other institutions in the United States and Europe, found that human-caused climate change might have made the record rainfall that fell over Houston during Hurricane Harvey roughly three times more likely and 15 percent more intense

Rice scientists study ants in the Big Thicket after Hurricane Harvey

With support from the National Science Foundation's Rapid Response Research program, Rice ecologists Tom Miller, Sarah Bengston and Scott Solomon, along with their students, are evaluating whether Hurricane Harvey increased opportunities for invasion by exotic ants in southeast Texas

A robotic fish swims in the ocean

A team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory has unveiled "SoFi," a soft robotic fish that can independently swim alongside real fish in the ocean

Recreating Earth's largest extinction in a laboratory

Jeffrey Benca exposed dwarf pines to 13 times the level of dangerous UV-B radiation we get on a sunny day and found that the conditions, similar to what some think occured during Earth's largest extinction 252 million years ago, made the trees sterile

Battling wildfires with data-driven knowledge

San Diego Supercomputer Center's chief data science officer Ilkay Altintas describes a National Science Foundation-funded project that uses data-driven knowledge and predictive tools to battle wildfires, such as those that destroyed thousands of homes and businesses in 2017

Heavy nitrogen molecules reveal planetary-scale tug-of-war

Rice University scientist Laurence Yeung, along with scientists at University of California Los Angeles, Michigan State University and the University of New Mexico, counted rare molecules in the atmosphere that contain only heavy isotopes of nitrogen, and discovered a planetary-scale tug-of-war between life, the deep Earth and the upper atmosphere

A close-up look at a rare underwater eruption

In 2015, scientists from the University of Tasmania, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the University of California Berkeley, the University of Otago in New Zealand and others traveled to the site of an underwater volcanic eruption, the Havre Volcano in the Southwest Pacific Ocean